Union Canal - Linlithgow to Falkirk Wheel

This route links the Union Canal in Linlithgow with the Falkirk Wheel, which allows boats to be transferred to the Clyde & Forth Canal.

The route starts in Linlithgow on the Union Canal, close to the railway station, which is on the Edinburgh to Glasgow main line. Linlithgow is more than just the start of this cycle route. Places to visit include the loch near the centre of town, the 15th-century Linlithgow Palace, birthplace of James V and Mary Queen of Scots, and the Linlithgow Canal Centre alongside the Union Canal.

West of Linlithgow, the route is wonderfully rural, though rough at times, following the towpath along the northern bank of the canal. Take care when passing under bridges along the way where the path narrows – it’s a good idea to ring your bell to alert oncoming path users you are there. The canal is also a great place to spot a wealth of wildflowers, and even get involved in yearly surveys.

The canal crosses the River Avon on the 12 arches of the impressive Avon Aqueduct, Scotland’s longest and tallest aqueduct. You’ll need to dismount and walk your bike across the cobbled path here. It is a short detour off the canal to visit the Muiravonside Country Park where there is a café and walks. Those looking for a break and some refreshments can take a seat at Bridge 49 Café Bar and Restaurant shortly after, enjoying views over the canal as you dine.

Continuing westwards along the towpath, the route passes the ruins of Almond Castle before entering the town of Polmont. You can cut the route short here by catching the train back to Linlithgow or Falkirk. Look out for information boards along the route, with local maps, and distances to major locations such as Falkirk and Edinburgh. Watch out for access gates along the path, which you may need to dismount to pass through.

At Glen Village, you pass the unusual Glen Bridge, known as the “Laughin’ and Greetin’” bridge. The faces facing east are overjoyed at having completed the canal from Edinburgh, those facing west are miserable at the prospect of digging the Falkirk Tunnel - into which the route plunges - Scotland’s longest canal tunnel at 630 metres long.

While the tunnel is dimly lit in sections, lights are advisable, as it dismounting and walking your bike through, as the ground is wet and slippery and the path itself is narrow. To avoid the tunnel, turn up a steep path after the Glen Bridge, across the road and through a several small parks on tarmac path, following signs for Slamannan Road till you reach it. The fairly busy road leads to Falkirk High station - turn downstairs before you reach the station, following signs for the John Muir Way, and through the station car park. Coming down a ramp at the other end of the car park, turn to your left through an underpass to rejoin Route 754.

It is a short stretch from the tunnel to the famous Falkirk Wheel which allows boats to be transferred between the Union Canal and the Clyde & Forth Canal. You can return to Linlithgow by the same route or take the train from Falkirk High Station. There is a signed path that leads directly from the canal to the western end of the Glasgow-bound platform.

From here follow the Forth & Clyde Canal along off-road path through Falkirk for another four miles, until you reach The Helix and the Kelpies, which are impressive 30-metre-high horse-head sculptures. Take a tour of the sculptures, or let children play in the Adventure Zone play park and Splash Play area, and enjoy the completion of your journey.

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Please note

We have taken all responsible steps to ensure that these routes are safe and achievable by people with a reasonable level of fitness. However, all outdoor activities involve a degree of risk. To the extent permitted by law, Sustrans accepts no responsibility for any accidents or injury resulting from following these routes. Walking and cycling routes change over time. Weather conditions may also affect path surfaces. Please use your own judgement when using the routes based upon the weather and the ability, experience and confidence levels of those in your group.

To make sure everyone gets the most out of their time by the water, please ensure you follow the Towpath Code.

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